5 Amazing New Things We Just Learned About Pandora – The World of Avatar

Originally published in Theme Park Tourist…

Just a few days ago Disney confirmed that Pandora – The World of Avatar will welcome its first guests in summer 2017, meaning we are only about 6 months or so from being able to walk on another planet via Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, though we’ve heard a lot about both of the new rides that will be a part of this brand new land, Disney recently released a bunch of new information about Pandora – The World of Avatar, that has us more excited than ever to check out this new land when it officially debuts next year!

1. The Na’Vi River Journey animatronics will be spectacular

Image: Disney

Disney has really been raising the bar for animatronic technology in recent years, as evidenced by the truly stunning recreations of Frozen characters Elsa, Anna and Olaf on display in Frozen Ever After. However, even though we were truly wowed by these projection-based animatronics, it looks like Pandora – The World of Avatar will have even more impressive technology on display.

During a presentation this past weekend, filmmaker James Cameron and Imagineer Joe Rohde showed off a video with footage of an animatronic of the Shaman of Songs character, who is a revered member of the Na’vi people of Pandora, and will be a big part of the Na’vi River Journey attraction. You can check out the video below:

This intricate animatronic is different from others that we’ve seen in the recent past, as it doesn’t rely on the projection technology that was used to great effect in Frozen Ever After and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to convey precise facial movements. Instead, this cutting edge animatronic uses intricate physical machinery to achieve the truly stunning and lifelike effect you see above.

2. Dining will be an experience like nothing else at Walt Disney World

Image: Disney

While there have been plenty of rumors flying around about what kind of dining experience guests might find inside Pandora – The World of Avatar, Disney finally released the first real details about the two new dining locations that will open alongside this new land next year.

First up is the Satu’li Canteen, which will be the main restaurant in Pandora – The World of Avatar. Based on the concept art above, it looks like this location will be serving food quick-service style, catering to guests on the go. However, if guests want another option, there will also be Pongu Pongu, which will be a lounge-style dining location serving drinks in a setting that is described as “as eclectic as its Expat owner”.

Image: Disney

Beyond the physical locations, Disney has confirmed that the cuisine served between these two locations will be completely unique, “alien cuisine” unlike anything else offered at the resort. Now whether this means you’ll have a blue hamburger or something really challenging remains to be seen, but we’re hopeful that Disney will be taking full advantage of the opportunity to create something truly distinctive for hungry guests in this new land.

3. There won’t be any walk-around characters

Image: Disney

As you might expect considering the tall stature of the Na’vi, walk-around characters based on the Avatar franchise would not be a very practical addition to Walt Disney World’s character lineup. And now it has been confirmed that guests will not be able to see any of these fictional creatures roaming around Pandora – The World of Avatar. Of course, that’s not a guarantee that there won’t be a Na’Vi meet and greet of some kind (perhaps using animatronics, similar to the Cars meet and greet that used to be housed at the erstwhile Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), but no matter what the case ends up being, it looks like any character experiences that do come to this area will be extremely limited in nature.

4. The story of this new land removes it from the first Avatar film

Image: Disney 

Every land at Walt Disney World has its own story, and Pandora – The World of Avatar will be no different. It was revealed this past week that the storyline being developed by Walt Disney Imagineering and Lightstorm Entertainment for this new land will take place 100 years after the events of the first Avatar film. This new land will show the effects of events that transpired nearly a century before the present, when a destructive company called the RDA came to Pandora. However, much has changed in the past 100 years, and now that RDA is long gone, nature is breaking down evidence of their presence.

A centerpiece of the story and theme of Pandora – The World of Avatar will be the bridge that will connect this land to the rest of the park. Pictured above, this structure will serve as an entry into the base camp of Alpha Centauri Expeditions, the eco-tour group that is preparing Pandora for future explorers and adventure seekers, and will help immerse guests immediately in this world.

5. Even the gift shop will be part of the story

Image: Disney

While we already knew that Walt Disney World is home to some pretty cool gift shops, Pandora – The World of Avatar will be home to a merchandise location that should combine the retail experience with theming in some fun ways. Named Windtraders, guests who visit this shop can find Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits, and more for sale. However, looking at the concept art above, it looks like there will be some hands-on exhibits and things to do (beyond shopping) inside this retail space as well, making this one gift shop you won’t want to skip on the way out.

Though it feels like Pandora – The World of Avatar has been in development forever, it looks like we are finally in the home stretch, and will be able to walk into this new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in just a few months. Are you still excited to experience this new land? Or are you more excited about other developments happening around Walt Disney World. Sound off below!


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Don Korta
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